Tom Swarbrick 10pm - 1am
Birmingham Nightingale hospital 'accelerated' as midlands coronavirus death toll rises
4 April 2020, 20:03
Ministers said preparations for the new Nightingale hospital for the region will be "accelerated" as the Midlands recorded a higher coronavirus death toll than London on Friday.
NHS England said 212 people diagnosed with Covid-19 died in the Midlands in the 24 hours to 5pm on Friday.
A total of 637 people died in England over that period, including 127 in London.
Speaking at the daily Number 10 press conference on Saturday, Michael Gove labelled the Midlands "a particular area of concern" and said "the NHS and the military are accelerating their existing work to transform the National Exhibition Centre into a 2,000-bed Nightingale hospital".
The Cabinet minister also said he had spoken to the mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street about the ongoing crisis.
The first coronavirus fatality among frontline NHS hospital staff was recorded as a Midlands doctor.
Amged El-Hawrani, 55, died at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester last Saturday.
Mr El-Hawrani worked as an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Queen's Hospital Burton - playing a leading role in merging the Burton and Derby hospitals.
On Friday, a nurse and mother of three working in a West Midlands hospital also died after testing positive for Covid-19.
Tributes poured in for 36-year-old Areema Nasreen, who died at Walsall Manor Hospital, where she worked, in the early hours of Friday after being put on a ventilator.
An NHS boss would not give a definite answer when asked why cases and deaths were growing exponentially in some regions.
When asked why the virus is spreading further in the Midlands, north-east England and Yorkshire, the national medical director of NHS England Professor Stephen Powis said it is "difficult to give a particular explanation".
He said London, as a metropolitan hub with many visitors, is ahead of elsewhere in terms of infection rate, and regional variations in terms of spread are "to be expected".
Toby Lewis, chief executive of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said on Friday that his hospital has opened 20% more beds in the last three weeks as they prepare for more Covid-19 positive patients.
Speaking on Friday, he added: "Over the course of the next five days we will increase by 400%, that is the scale of our intensive care provision."
He continued: "To be clear, that is the sort of scale of increase that NHS hospitals across the wider West Midlands have been asked to prepare for.
"On the basis of an expectation of a significant surge in patient need over the course of the next two weeks."